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My Mussar Story by Alan Morinis

Alan Morinis has become a leading contemporary interpreter of the venerable Jewish spiritual tradition of Mussar. He talks about what sent him on the search that led him to discover Mussar, what he found that changed his life, and is now changing the lives of so many others.

Find out more about Alan Morinis here.


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The Path of Spheres | An Excerpt from Kabbalah

Since the Middle Ages the cosmic tree of life with its ten spheres, or divine attributes, has been the central image of kabbalistic meditation. Though some masters adapted the “seven heavens” of the first century Merkabah mystics, equating them with the seven lower branches of the tree, most Kabbalists focused their attention on the symbolic tree alone. With its inner “lights,” corresponding colors, metals, and divine names, the tree itself was complicated enough. The mystic’s attitude as he approached meditation on the spheres proved him to be as certain of his ultimate goal as he was reverential.

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Climbing Jacob's Ladder by Alan Morinis, pages 138–139

This might sound like a fatalistic attitude, but actually having this sort of trust still doesn’t relieve us of our obligation to act. It doesn’t mean we just sit back and wait to see what God has in store for us, because it is still important that we make an effort—and, in fact, in most instances effort is required, because the Jewish tradition prohibits reliance on miracles. It’s a bit of a paradox, because everything is decreed from on high, and yet we still have free will and an obligation to act on our own behalf. The rabbis don’t resolve this paradox, they just affirm the truth of both propositions. Rabbi Akiva puts it succinctly: “Everything is foreseen, yet freedom of choice is given.”

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A kabbalah (plural, kabbalot) is a small act you take on to facilitate growth in a particular soul trait. For example, if you are working on generosity, a classic kabbalah is to give a small amount of money as many times as possible during the day to build the generosity muscle. A kabbalah needs to be small, measurable, and easily achievable.
It has two purposes—to create a positive habit through regular repetition, and to bring unconscious resistance regarding a certain middah into conscious awareness. The word kabbalah comes from the Hebrew root for “accept/receive”; one “accepts” a kabbalah upon oneself.

—David Jaffe, Changing the World from the Inside Out: A Jewish Approach to Personal and Social Change, page 108

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Online Courses

How to Be a Mensch

At the heart of Judaism, no less fundamental than the observation of ritual and the wisdom of Jewish law, revelation, and text, is the teaching of the transformation of the heart and soul of the individual. Dr. Alan Morinis, founder of The Mussar Institute, introduces the extraordinary thousand-year-old tradition of Mussar to help practitioners acquire Torah and internalize the wisdom of the tradition.

Taught by: Alan Morinis


The Path of Spheres | An Excerpt from Kabbalah

Kabbalistic Meditation Since the Middle Ages the cosmic tree of life with its ten spheres, or divine attributes, has been the central image of kabbalistic meditation. Though some masters adapted th...

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Embodied Freedom

The Traditions of Passover by David Jaffe, author of Changing the World from the Inside Out It would take me many more years to learn that eating the special foods of Passover can be an embodi...

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Awe and Love in the New Year

by David Jaffe The Jewish calendar, like all religious systems, has particular ways of marking spiritual time. A weekly sabbath beckons us to stop, prayers for the new lunar month remind us of the ...

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Hidden Treasure – A Jewish Mother in Shangrila

A Jewish Mother in Shangri-la by Rosie RosenzweigAn old joke tells of a Jewish woman who treks to the Himalayas to seek an audience with a guru sitting in seclusion on a mountaintop. When at last sh...

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